Avoid Becoming a Victim by Identifying Vulnerability
Threat assessment professionals perceive threats through detecting dangerous people.
But as I have learned over 25 years assessing threats as a prosecutor, dangerous people prey on personal vulnerability.
Self-protection through self-assessment is therefore an important way to be proactive about personal safety, both the safety of those you protect, and your own.
How too Protect the Most Important Person in Your Life — Yourself
As the flight attendants advise before the oxygen masks drop in an airplane, put on your mask first before assisting others.
The same applies to protecting your loved ones; you must first protect yourself.
Ideally, threat assessment should not be in response to victimization, but to prevent it.
Especially in cases of interpersonal violence, victims are in the best position to assess areas of vulnerability, if they know how to do it.
If you were tasked with thinking like an attacker, targeting yourself as the victim, you would be forced to view your habits and vulnerabilities in a very different light.
My last book "Red Flags," discussed how to protect yourself by recognizing dangerous people; but you can be personally proactive as well.
Self-Assessing Personal Safety
Men and women have a different view of the importance of personal safety.
T.K. Logan and Robert Walker (2021) explored this issue in the aptly entitled "The Gender Safety Gap," in which they begin by acknowledging that women have a higher concern for personal safety and accordingly, take more precautions than men.
Jocelyn A. Hollander and Jeanine Cunningham (2020) explored the effectiveness of empowerment self-defense training in an adult population ranging in ages from 18-77 years.
They found that participants who completed a 9-hr community-based empowerment self-defense course reported significantly less instances of sexual assault one year later, as well as a higher amount of self-defense awareness, as well as more accurate knowledge about resisting sexual assault than others who did not take the course.
They conclude, among other things, that empowerment self-defense training is a significant component of sexual assault prevention efforts.
But beyond gender-based generalizations or safety-related education, what makes you uniquely vulnerable as a practical matter?
Here are some factors to consider:
Personal Routine. We are creatures of habit. You likely get ready for the day in the same order, every day. Clothes, hygiene, breakfast, walking your dog, getting the kids ready for school.
You probably drive or take public transportation to work using the same route, at the same time, every day.
Your pattern is predictable. Mix it up.
Distraction. What captures your attention in public to the extent that you narrow your focus? Onlookers at a parade or marathon make easy targets for pickpockets, and movie theatre patrons often notice personal belongings missing when the house lights come on. Remain visibly alert both for the opportunity to spot danger, and for optics.
Power Play. Confidence and capability counteract vulnerability.
If you are visibly insecure or physically unfit, you make a good target, seemingly unwilling or unable to fight back or give chase. Assertively striding down in the street in jogging clothes and running shoes portrays strength, response readiness, and self-confidence.
There are many other tips, tactics, and safety practices which I will discuss in upcoming columns. But a common denominator is that personal safety is personal; it starts with you.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, Ph.D., is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.
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